Go to college or join the peace corps?

My youngest brother is navigating his way through his senior year of high school. He’s a smart kid and everyone and their mother is telling him what he should be and what schools he should go to. The funny thing is that the kid is not too interested in going to college at this point.

He called me a few nights ago wanting to know what I know about joining the peace corps. Seems he would rather spend his time helping people with the peace corps than going to college or getting a job right out of high school.

Unfortunately for most high school students the peace corps prefers people that at least have some community college under their belt.

Qualifications are:

  1. At least age 18
  2. A US citizen
  3. A four-year college degree, or solid work experience in an area such as agriculture, business management, or a skilled trade. A community college degree paired with specific skills or work experience may also qualify you.

So, for him, this applies:

For applicants without a college degree, there are opportunities to work in several program areas, provided you have the appropriate work experience or knowledge of a skilled trade. To find out about these opportunities, call your regional recruitment office at 800.424.8580.

The skilled trade areas (from the best I can tell) are:

  • agriculture
  • business
  • community development
  • construction
  • and more

Fortunately our father works in construction building new homes. And my brother has spent many summers helping him out. So, I suspect he will actually end up qualifying for the peace corps if he decides to pursue it.

I did a little research for him so that he would know what he is getting into. He thought he could do it for a year and then assess things and take it from there.

All Peace Corps Volunteers commit to 27 months of training and service overseas.

Volunteers do earn 2 days of vacation time per month though.

I was under the impression that all you got in terms of pay for this gig was room and board and transportation. Looks like you get a little more than that.

From their website:

The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with a living allowance that enables them to live in a manner similar to the local people in their community. The Peace Corps also provides complete medical and dental care and covers the cost of transportation to and from your country of service.

When you return from your 27 months of service, you will receive just over $6,000 toward your transition to life back home. The money is yours to use as you wish: for travel, a vacation, making a move, or securing housing.

Wow. Sounds like a pretty decent gig to me.

Did you know that there is no upper age limit for volunteers?

There is no application deadline for being a volunteer as applications are taken on a rolling basis. The entire application process-from completion of your application to departure for service-takes an average of nine months.

If you are legally married, then you can serve together with your spouse. If you are in a gay relationship though you are out of luck. That’s really unfortunate. I wonder how many volunteers the Peace Corps and those in need are missing out on just because the USA does not recognize gay relationships?

Applying is a five step process.

  1. Submit your application.
  2. Wait to get contacted for an interview.
  3. Get medical and legal clearance.
  4. Qualify based on your skills and suitability.
  5. They contact you with a placement.

And that is it.

And here is an interesting benefit once you get out of the Peace Corps:

Receive Advantages in Federal Employment

Volunteers who complete two years of service receive one year of noncompetitive eligibility for employment in the federal government. This means that if you meet the minimum qualifications for a position, you can be hired without going through the standard competitive process, at the employing agency’s discretion.

Is your resume working for you? Mine wasn’t.

Since being newly unemployed I have had the time to tinker with my resume to make sure that it is working its magic for me when I send it out to a prospective employer. I have a Bachelor’s in Journalism so I thought my resume was pretty darn spiffy to begin with, but I thought a little sprucing up couldn’t hurt it. After a little research I discovered something. My spiffy resume was not so spiffy. Talk about a blow to the ego! No matter, because now I am armed with info and can spruce it up to make sure I can land an awesome job. Well, at least the interview that is!

When I was getting ready to tweak my resume I did a search for keywords that I should make sure are on there. With so many computers scanning resumes for keywords these days it is easy to get left out regardless of your qualifications.

One of the first valuable bits of information I came to were the top keywords that actually weaken your resume.  And don’t you know that I had some of them on my resume!

  • Vague wording is something that weakens your resume. Examples include: assist, support and contribute. The problem  is that these are not descriptive enough.
  • Saying you “effectively” or “successfully” did something as opposed to stating exactly what that success was. Sometimes you may even have it spelled out but add in the “successfully” part which can be both redundant and confusing.
  • Listing out things that you are “responsible for.” Again this is a telling and not showing your successes. Instead of saying “responsible for phone coverage” it would look much better to say “answered 15 line phone” or something similar.
  • Confusing the reader with fancy words or buzzwords. A lot of times you can get a HR person that has no idea what your resume is talking about. I have actually had this happen before. What a nightmare!

On the flipside of keywords and resumes I also found an article about keywords that strengthen your resume. I am ashamed to say that previously I only had one of these on my resume.

  • Teamwork. People love to hear that you can play well with others. And it also means to employers that you can be counted on to pick up the slack if someone else on the “team” is falling behind.
  •  Flexibility. They want to know that you are willing to wear many hats. It’s like multi-tasking, only with more hats.
  • Detail-oriented. Employers like it when you are anal and super organized. It means you can be counted on to get things done without someone having to stand over your shoulder.
  • Self-motivated. Employers want to see that you will take the initiative and seek out work without waiting for it to be handed to you. I think this goes with flexibility as this kind of person will wear many hats.